User−Producer Interaction in Housing Energy Innovations
Energy Innovation as a Communication Challenge
Article first published online: 13 JAN 2010
© 2010 by Yale University
Journal of Industrial Ecology
Special Issue: Sustainable Consumption and Production
Volume 14, Issue 1, pages 91–102, January/February 2010
How to Cite
Heiskanen, E. and Lovio, R. (2010), User−Producer Interaction in Housing Energy Innovations. Journal of Industrial Ecology, 14: 91–102. doi: 10.1111/j.1530-9290.2009.00196.x
- Issue published online: 19 FEB 2010
- Article first published online: 13 JAN 2010
- detached houses;
- energy efficiency;
- industrial ecology;
- innovation management;
- sustainable consumption and production (SCP);
- user participation
Von Hippel and colleagues have highlighted the crucial role of users in innovation in different industries and types of products. They describe the innovation process in terms of the distinct domains of knowledge that producers and users possess. Producers have knowledge about technical solutions and users about their needs, the context of use, and their own capabilities as users. Both sets of knowledge are characterized by “stickiness”: They move relatively freely within their own domain but are difficult to transfer outside of it.
In the case of radical innovations for sustainable consumption, the problem of “sticky information” is compounded. Both producers and consumers need to reach out of their conventional competencies and search for new solutions. “Societal actors,” such as government bodies or environmental experts, can show the way to such solutions, but this new knowledge needs to be integrated with the “sticky” knowledge about everyday practices in production and consumption.
In the present article we attempt to conceptualize the role and interaction of user and producer knowledge with the knowledge of environmental experts in housing energy innovations. We do so by applying the user−producer interaction framework to a case study on the introduction of low-energy housing concepts in Finland. On the basis of this analysis, we draw conclusions on the potential and limitations of today's practices in the field. For example, we suggest that user involvement can help to enhance the acceptance of low-energy solutions but that the methods for involving users need to be adapted to the particular circumstances in each industry.